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Study: Climate change identified as extinction threat in nearly 60 percent of species recovery plans

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Fifty-nine percent of the endangered species recovery plans issued by the U.S. government between 2005 and 2008 mention climate change as one of the major threats facing the species, according to a study published in Conservation Biology.

The study, which examined 1,209 species recovery plans published between 1975 and 2008, was authored by Tony Povilitis, president of Life Net Nature, and Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD).

The mention of climate change in these species recovery plans is a fairly recent occurrence. Of the 87 recovery plans issued between 2001 and 2004, only 16 mentioned climate change as an extinction threat. That rose to 73 out of 123 plans issued from 2005 to 2008.

Despite federally employed scientists identifying climate change as a factor in possible species extinctions, the government itself hasn’t come up with any plan to protect these species by combating climate change. "Scientific teams have moved swiftly to incorporate global warming into these recovery plans, but good science isn’t enough," Suckling said in a prepared statement. "We need good policy. Without it, scientific teams are forced to create their own policies on the fly, species by species, every time they write a recovery plan."

The study was actually published in April, but the CBD is just publicizing it now after spending a few months dealing with the repercussions of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Photo: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio Data provided by Robert B. Schmunk





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  1. 1. candide 12:18 pm 08/21/2010

    Maybe we should add Humans to the list…

    Link to this
  2. 2. jtdwyer 2:40 pm 08/21/2010

    Is some organization charged with these 1,200 species’ extinction recovery plans, or are the species’ required to implement them on their own? Should I presume these plans will be funded by the American taxpayer? What about those species that must be extinguished to free up ecological space for new replacement species? What’s the net impact if we only save the species in our neighborhoods? Why do we think we can manage and control the biosphere?

    Link to this
  3. 3. Trent1492 4:04 pm 08/21/2010

    "Is some organization charged with these 1,200 species’ extinction recovery plans, or are the species’ required to implement them on their own? "

    Who here thinks this rhetorical question deserves more than a sentence?

    "Should I presume these plans will be funded by the American taxpayer?"

    I am all for charging polluters commensurate with the damage they cause. I hope you will join in me asking E.G that mining companies have bigger bonds for clean up instead of leaving it to the local communities to mange these messes on their own resources.

    "What about those species that must be extinguished to free up ecological space for new replacement species?"

    I am intrigued tell me more.

    "What’s the net impact if we only save the species in our neighborhoods?"

    Define neighborhood for me first.

    "Why do we think we can manage and control the biosphere?"

    We already do. It is just that we have historically only seen the environment as only something to profit from. Face it. Human activity impacts the environment that it operates in. Human beings unlike worms are sentient and thus actually take actions that consciously affect for better or worse that environment.

    Link to this
  4. 4. scientific earthling 10:02 pm 08/21/2010

    Commentators, I read your posts every time, you are truly interested in the future of our planet, no matter how you express your concern.

    let me point you in the direction of an essay written anonymously in 1798. You can download and read a brilliant piece of literature for free. The English is also very readable.

    here is the link: http://www.esp.org/books/malthus/population/malthus.pdf

    Link to this
  5. 5. sfpanama 11:34 pm 08/21/2010

    I am fed up with righteous BS. Science can only speculate on what will or will not occur. The oceans and the land are full of volcanoes that are active and spewing out mega tons of CO2 and other noxious gases let alone heating the environment. We have listened to science tell us not to eat pork, eggs, or avocados, or drink coffee and tea, now pork is white meat and the rest is good for us. We were told the A bombs would leave waste lands for centuries yet millions are thriving in Nagasaki and Hiroshima after just 60 years. Everyone has proof of some ill effect or some calamity or other until the money runs out then it is on to something else. Spin your wheels or use the brains god gave you and start thinking for yourself before every human becomes extinct.

    Link to this
  6. 6. Soccerdad 9:37 am 08/22/2010

    "Climate change identified as extinction threat in nearly 60 percent of species recovery plans"

    Of course it is. It’s easy to write into the report and carries weight with an awful lot of people despite any rigorous proof of causation for its contribution to the endangerment of that particular species. It’s mostly laziness.

    Link to this
  7. 7. Trent1492 12:35 pm 08/22/2010

    Shorter Soccerdad:

    I do not want to believe because it makes me uncomfortable.

    Link to this
  8. 8. Trent1492 12:59 pm 08/22/2010

    @SFpanama,

    "The oceans and the land are full of volcanoes that are active and spewing out mega tons of CO2 and other noxious gases let alone heating the environment. "

    And they have been steadily increasing CO2 levels over the past two centuries? The same two centuries that the Industrial Revolution has occurred. That match of fossil fuels consumption and build of CO2 in the atmosphere is just sheer coincidence. I have two questions for you:

    1. Evidence?

    2. Where do you think all those billions of tons of CO2 being put in the atmosphere are going? And no answering that question is not an answer.

    "We have listened to science tell us not to eat pork, eggs, or avocados, or drink coffee and tea, now pork is white meat and the rest is good for us."

    Can you tell us all why you think human dietary advice invalidates the Laws of Conservation? I am little fuzzy on the connection.

    "We were told the A bombs would leave waste lands for centuries yet millions are thriving in Nagasaki and Hiroshima after just 60 years."

    This was the advice of the scientist? Who and how many gave that advice? You do know that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were never abandoned.

    "Everyone has proof of some ill effect or some calamity or other until the money runs out then it is on to something else."

    So you think that there is nothing to worry about and that nothing we consume can harm us. Tell me you work for McDonald’s. Please.

    "Spin your wheels or use the brains god gave you and start thinking for yourself before every human becomes extinct."

    Irony thy name is sfpanama

    Link to this
  9. 9. sfpanama 7:08 pm 08/22/2010

    What we eat has full bearing on what science today is all about. Funding, Grants and the almighty buck.

    The Atom bomb did not leave waste lands as I was taught in the 50s. Granted the exposure to radiation be it alpha, beta or gamma, zeta or phi rays has lingering effects OR so we are told, yet Hiroshima prospers so does Nagasaki, I have not read the percentages of child hood deaths and deformities and illnesses in those areas in Japan, likewise with the USA and the populations exposure to to the same rays after some 60 plus A BOMB explosions in Nevada.

    Does Science and our medical profession link the rise in all these Cancers to the Nevada nuclear tests? Is this common knowledge? When people move to Nevada are they warned about possible lingering RAYS that may cause illnesses? Are there signs warning them that it is a hazardous area like the borders of Arizona?

    There is no money in telling people they are getting cancer because our government ignored the early issues about the A bomb and since then, the subject does not exist.

    I suggest you read up on Volcanoes and the amount of gases that rise out of them and guess what – they do not just puff out of existence. Yes they massively contribute to global warming.

    But hey, lets not talk about that. NOOOO. Lets talk about how bad the humans are. Oops, we are part of the ecology on planet earth, to live we need food, we need comforts, we need to do number 1 and 2 daily, Ah if the planet were just free of this menace, all the birdies and the ants would be able to take over and live in harmony.

    So better to get rid of everything the human needs to survive, like cows for meat, or fish for omega 3 oils, or vegetables and fruits that take up so many acres of land to grow. Yes take the cheap heat away and replace it with something a lot more expensive, then only a few can afford it and the rest of this menace will die!

    Heck better yet, lets just have wars and destroy the land so nothing grows and millions are eliminated.

    I like living, I like eating, I like going to the bathroom, I like having climate control in my living area, I like sleeping on a soft bed. Born and bred in USA. So don’t just facetiously remark on my call name.

    THE MONEY IS IN CLIMATE CHANGE, JUST LOOK TO YOUR HEROES BACKING THIS FARCE.

    Link to this
  10. 10. sfpanama 7:23 pm 08/22/2010

    HERE I WILL MAKE IT EASY FOR YOU

    THIS IS THE LIST OF VOLCANOS OVER THE PAST 300 YEARS.
    http://www.volcano.si.edu/world/largeeruptions.cfm

    AND THIS IS WHAT THE VEI MEANS.
    http://www.volcano.si.edu/world/eruptioncriteria.cfm#VEI

    as I said before, I am fed up with science of today and all the BS they throw out at us. WHEN, science becomes independent of the almighty dollar, then maybe just maybe we can get some real answers and advances. In the meantime, we are bombarded with propaganda and marketing ploys.

    Link to this
  11. 11. Trent1492 2:44 am 08/23/2010

    "What we eat has full bearing on what science today is all about. Funding, Grants and the almighty buck."

    You think greedy scientist are lying to you for the grant money? Evidence?

    "The Atom bomb did not leave waste lands as I was taught in the 50s. Granted the exposure to radiation be it alpha, beta or gamma, zeta or phi rays has lingering effects OR so we are told, yet Hiroshima prospers so does Nagasaki, I have not read the percentages of child hood deaths and deformities and illnesses in those areas in Japan, likewise with the USA and the populations exposure to to the same rays after some 60 plus A BOMB explosions in Nevada."

    A. This not the claim you made. You claimed that "We were told the A bombs would leave waste lands for centuries yet millions are thriving in Nagasaki and Hiroshima after just 60 years." Where is the evidence for this claim?

    "I suggest you read up on Volcanoes and the amount of gases that rise out of them and guess what – they do not just puff out of existence. Yes they massively contribute to global warming."

    False. Take a look what the experts in the field of vulcanology have to say:

    From the USGS:
    "Do the Earth’s volcanoes emit more CO2 than human activities? Research findings indicate that the answer to this frequently asked question is a clear and unequivocal, “No.” Human activities, responsible for some 36,300 million metric tons of CO2 emissions in 2008 [Le Quéré et al., 2009], release at least a hundred times more CO2 annually than all the world’s degassing subaerial and submarine volcanoes (Gerlach, 2010)."

    See how that works? Oh, I forgot you think the geologist are in on the conspiracy too. Matter of fact, you think the trillion dollar fossil fuel industry is a victim of grant greedy geophysicist. Will some think of poor little old Exxon-Mobil?

    Link to this
  12. 12. 2cents 6:44 am 08/23/2010

    sfpanama,

    it’s easier/more convenient to believe that the environmental impact of our species is negligible compared to, say, natural events like volcanic eruptions. it’s easier and more convenient because it does not demand a change in our thinking and the way we live.

    but the evidence of humans’ negative effect on the biosphere is just so overwhelming, so ABSOLUTELY overwhelming. 1000′s of peer reviewed studies, some excellent, some average, have been shouting this message for several years now. Again, the easier/more convenient option (to maintain the status quo) is to put it down to some grand conspiracy involving scientists scrabbling for funding, conspiring in a globally co-ordinated effort to milk more money from their respective governments/industry etc.

    Surely you don’t believe this?!

    Firstly, most scientists are not in science for money. They aren’t paid well, so those who end up staying in science do it because they genuinely enjoy it. Secondly, co-ordinating a conspiracy of that scale is, quite frankly, ridiculous. Thirdly, scientist are interested in novelty. As a scientist, that’s what gets your study published. So, if there were large scale evidence that habitat destruction, species range shifts, global warming, etc etc, were hoaxes, scientists themselves would be scrabbling to be the first to publicise these facts. In this way, the peer reviewed scientific process is self correcting.

    So, while not all science is top-notch (something that the general public unrealistically demands – there are degrees of competence in any occupation), the general trends are going to be as close to the truth as we can be with present knowledge and technology. and science is very clear on where the world is headed if we maintain the status quo in terms of our destruction of natural habitats and carbon intensive lifestyles.

    It’s hard to change, but we need to think beyond our rights and look to our responsibilities as humans, while there is still time. I encourage you to do a Wiki-search on Daniel Quinn’s cult novel, Ishmael. It’s a quirky book, but it is enlightening. One needs to know that something is wrong in order to change!

    Link to this
  13. 13. 2cents 6:46 am 08/23/2010

    sfpanama,

    it’s easier/more convenient to believe that the environmental impact of our species is negligible compared to, say, natural events like volcanic eruptions. it’s easier and more convenient because it does not demand a change in our thinking and the way we live.

    but the evidence of humans’ negative effect on the biosphere is just so overwhelming, so ABSOLUTELY overwhelming. 1000′s of peer reviewed studies, some excellent, some average, have been shouting this message for several years now. Again, the easier/more convenient option (to maintain the status quo) is to put it down to some grand conspiracy involving scientists scrabbling for funding, conspiring in a globally co-ordinated effort to milk more money from their respective governments/industry etc.

    Surely you don’t believe this?!

    Firstly, most scientists are not in science for money. They aren’t paid well, so those who end up staying in science do it because they genuinely enjoy it. Secondly, co-ordinating a conspiracy of that scale is, quite frankly, ridiculous. Thirdly, scientist are interested in novelty. As a scientist, that’s what gets your study published. So, if there were large scale evidence that habitat destruction, species range shifts, global warming, etc etc, were hoaxes, scientists themselves would be scrabbling to be the first to publicise these facts. In this way, the peer reviewed scientific process is self correcting.

    So, while not all science is top-notch (something that the general public unrealistically demands – there are degrees of competence in any occupation), the general trends are going to be as close to the truth as we can be with present knowledge and technology. and science is very clear on where the world is headed if we maintain the status quo in terms of our destruction of natural habitats and carbon intensive lifestyles.

    It’s hard to change, but we need to think beyond our rights and look to our responsibilities as humans, while there is still time. I encourage you to do a Wiki-search on Daniel Quinn’s cult novel, Ishmael. It’s a quirky book, but it is enlightening. One needs to know that something is wrong in order to change!

    Link to this
  14. 14. sfpanama 10:15 am 08/23/2010

    August 18, 2010: "Why Warming Is Falsely Reported When World Is Cooling – Obsession with finding human causes means they ignore what we know about natural mechanisms", by Dr. Tim Ball, …Obsession with finding human causes means they ignore what we know about natural mechanisms. Failure to include natural mechanisms is complicated by lack of knowledge or understanding of weather and climate mechanisms by most involved in the politics of climate science. …”

    It is no surprise or complicated theory that only the great geologists can figure out. Yes volcanoes spew various gases including water vapor, and when in the explosive period they contribute millions of tons of ash into the atmosphere which contributes to the cooling effect. What is not so easily understood is the contributions made by the gases over time. The acids contribute to acid rain, CO2 gases mingle with the atmosphere, and others. By the way, the recent volcanic eruptions have been relatively small over the past 20 or 30 years.

    However, my point is simple – if we do not look to all the cause and effects of combined mechanisms: Human contribution, methane dissolving in the warmer oceans, volcanoes, cloud seeding, manipulating the ionosphere, nuclear testings, wars, the oil fires during the war, air currents, changes in polar positions, on and on; and only look to simplify the cause and effects down to the human contributions then the present information on Climate Change and Global warming is HOGWASH and IRRESPONSIBLE- to simplify things.

    Data and Stats are easily manipulated to prove what one wants to prove. When, Science takes all the information and feeds it into the model and makes that UN-adulterated information public – only then can I begin to believe what they have to say.

    If one looks hard enough to find something, it will be found.

    Link to this
  15. 15. sfpanama 10:21 am 08/23/2010

    Just to clear the misconception here. I agree we humans can do more to reduce the need for fossil fuels. I do not believe we have been provided the answers from our scientist in order to make those changes. Solar panels are far too limited and far too expensive for what they do. Wind power is astronomically expensive and also does very little for its cost.

    I believe the majority of humans would switch over to a different energy source if it were offered. One that is as cheap and one that is a effective and Oil and Coal.

    But then again, where would the money come from?

    Link to this
  16. 16. Chris G 11:53 am 08/23/2010

    sfpanama,
    If you say that if you look for something hard enough it will be found, you might want to put some effort into finding the data. For instance, NASA’s is available online. But, here is a site that has gathered some up to make it easier for you.

    http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/

    Couple of points: For example, I do not see an important difference between the adjusted and unadjusted HADCRUT3 series. I see no series at all that would support any sort of sustained cooling trend.

    Let’s see: You say that an increase in volcanic activity over the last 150 years has caused the CO2 levels to reach levels not seen for millions of years. You also say that volcanic activity has been low over the last 20-30 years. I’ll add that the total solar irradiance has in an unusually low state for an unusually long length of time. Meanwhile, CO2 and temperatures continue to rise.

    Let’s leave it as your interpretation of the evidence is different from mine.

    If you want to talk about money, I’ll just ask you to consider how much money the fossil fuel industry has, how much they stand to loose, and consider whether they might have more or less influence than researchers on elected officials.

    Yeah, there is a reason we use fossil fuels; their short-term costs are cheaper than anything else. Some of us are more worried about the long-term costs.

    Link to this
  17. 17. sfpanama 11:56 am 08/23/2010

    some of us dont have the money to enjoy the luxury of overpriced useless solar panels.

    Link to this
  18. 18. Trent1492 12:29 pm 08/23/2010

    @sfpanama

    Why are you jumping from one objection to another? You can even substantiate your first allegations. Do you think that no notices?

    You have been presented with evidence that counters your claims that volcanoes are the cause of Global Warming. You have responded by resorting to claims of conspiracy and with (again) zero evidence.

    But now you are making two contradictory claims. In one you acknowledge that Earth is warming but falsely claim it the fault of volcanoes. In the other, you falsely claim that their is no Global Warming at all. These are contradictory claims. I am sorry but you can have it both ways. Which is it?

    You seem utterly unaware of two things.

    1. We have been tracking the steady rise of CO2 in the atmosphere for for decades. The resulting graph is one of the most famous graphs in all of science. It is called the Keeling Curve.

    Keeling Curve:
    http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=5620

    2. We can track the fossil fuel emissions and see the chemical signature of human activity. Please go and read about the Suess Effect:

    http://agwobserver.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/papers-on-anthropogenic-carbon-dioxide-observations/

    That you insist that we are entering some cooling phase tells me that you are unfamiliar with how trends are decided and the data actually says:

    NASA Temps:
    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/Fig.A2.lrg.gif

    You do realize that the 2000′s have the hottest decade on the instrument record?

    Link to this
  19. 19. sfpanama 12:31 pm 08/23/2010

    i looked at your suggested web site and find cooling periods during periods of high volcanic activity with warming following that. Any connection?

    Now, take a look at these sites.
    http://ikfia.ysn.ru/pdf/Cosmic_Ray_Symp/s1.11.pdf
    http://icecap.us/images/uploads/GLOBAL_COOLING.pdf

    but then again, where is the money if everything is JUST PART OF NATURE!

    Link to this
  20. 20. sfpanama 12:44 pm 08/23/2010

    You are reading stuff that is not there. I started with the BS being fed to us about the HUMAN CAUSED global warming (again with the extinction of species with no relationship to natural events).

    I understand there is NO money in proving natural events and other man made events (NUCLEAR TESTS) havw and are causing the warming. There is money however, to prove that HUMANS have to change what they do and invest in solar, wind, and newfangled appliances and apparatuses.

    yes science has been tracking CO2 for years, but to what avail? When the total effect of all mechanisms are not included in the results – it is hogwash.

    Does that mean that human population has NOT caused problems on the planet- NO. Does it mean that human population is the only cause of global warming – NO. Does it mean that human population is even the greater or lesser of evils NO TO BOTH.

    What it does mean is the information we are getting about global warming is based on the funding and where it comes from. Prove humans are the greater evil and voila!

    I am waiting for real sound evidence. NONE of which has been presented in an unbiased platform. Sorry, but that is what it is all about. Unpopular? yes!

    Link to this
  21. 21. sfpanama 12:50 pm 08/23/2010

    my original post: Maybe a few parenthesis will help the readers.

    I am fed up with righteous BS. Science can only speculate on what will or will not occur. (Examples: The oceans and the land are full of volcanoes that are active and spewing out mega tons of CO2 and other noxious gases let alone heating the environment. We have listened to science tell us not to eat pork, eggs, or avocados, or drink coffee and tea, now pork is white meat and the rest is good for us. We were told the A bombs would leave waste lands for centuries yet millions are thriving in Nagasaki and Hiroshima after just 60 years. ) Everyone has proof of some ill effect or some calamity or other until the money runs out then it is on to something else.

    Spin your wheels or use the brains god gave you and start thinking for yourself before every human becomes extinct ( a new addition to help the reader: listening to what we should and should not due depending on the PC whim of the day).

    Hope this helps the readers to GET what I am talking about.

    Reply | Report Abuse

    Link to this
  22. 22. sfpanama 12:57 pm 08/23/2010

    You site no warming effects from volcanoes. I suggest there is a lingering effect of the gases spewed from volcanoes contributing to warming, etc.

    You site Humans as the culprit, I suggest other causes.

    I do not buy into HUMANS as the only, main or major culprit. I say our dependence on fossil fuels is being beholding to countries that do not like us. Not the logical thing to do and therefore we should REDUCE our need for fossil fuels. HOWEVER, I do believe the worlds military far exceeds the individual human waste of fossil fuels.

    I suggest there are so many more, bigger and major contributors to global warming, than individual humans driving their cars or heating their houses – even collectively.

    This is not jumping from one point to another. It is called supporting my arguments.

    Link to this
  23. 23. Trent1492 1:20 pm 08/23/2010

    @Sfpanama,

    "You site no warming effects from volcanoes. I suggest there is a lingering effect of the gases spewed from volcanoes contributing to warming, etc."

    Your suggestions are not science. You have been shown that human emissions far outstrip volcanic ones. You have been show a body of scientific peer research of how we can measure that output. Your only response has to accuse people with zero evidence of fraud and to repeat the same "suggestions" as though they were never addresses.

    You seem to think all it takes to counter an argument is to "suggest" something. I am sorry but that does not cut the cheese. You need to present evidence in the form of peer reviewed empirically based studies.
    Pretty sad really.

    Link to this
  24. 24. Trent1492 1:25 pm 08/23/2010

    "I started with the BS being fed to us about the HUMAN CAUSED global warming (again with the extinction of species with no relationship to natural events)."

    I am sorry Sfpanama but repeating an substantiated assertion does not make it true.

    "yes science has been tracking CO2 for years, but to what avail?"

    It is called data and science needs it to advance understanding. "Suggestions" do not make the cut.

    "When the total effect of all mechanisms are not included in the results – it is hogwash."

    Once again, repeating an assertion does not make it more true.

    "Let’s leave it as your interpretation of the evidence is different from mine."

    No. You are here repeating fossil fuel talking points like a good little ideologue. Spouting slogans and thinking yourself immune to logic and fact.

    Link to this
  25. 25. 2cents 7:48 am 08/24/2010

    Sfpanama,

    You say scientists are after the dollar. The only way to access research funding is to churn out more climate change "hogwash", as you put it. So, that, in your view, is what’s happening. Unscrupulous scientists chasing money.

    Now, consider the oil industry…the multibillion (if not trillion) dollar oil industry. This whole climate-change-as-a-result-of-global-warming-from-CO2-emissions-from-fossil fuels (i.e. oil, gas) argument is going to dent their image and profits severely. Do you not think it plausible that they would make funding available for any and all scientists who could prove the whole global warming argument a big lie/conspiracy/fraud?

    <I’m assuming you will agree that the money would be made available (i mean, why wouldn’t it, right?).>

    Well then…where is this big tide of opposition science, rising to wash away the lies and uncover the conspiracy in, let’s call it ‘mainstream’ science? ‘Mainstream’ science has been amassing solid evidence for human-induced climate change for at least a couple of decades now (to be very conservative), so giving the oil-backed scientists’ a few years grace to gain popularity and swell their numbers, I’d expect to have seen the ‘mainstream’ argument blown out the water, well….years ago.

    But alas. Maybe it’s true. Maybe it’s time to accept the truth. Maybe it’s time to change.

    Link to this
  26. 26. Jarmo 6:47 pm 08/24/2010

    Here some mainstream science. Scientists not getting money from oil-companies and not intergovermental organizations.
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=gulf-oil-eating-microbes-slide-show&sc=WR_20100824

    Link to this
  27. 27. Trent1492 2:05 am 08/25/2010

    @Jarmo,

    What doe your link have to do with this article?

    Link to this
  28. 28. Trent1492 3:37 pm 09/7/2010

    @supertexan,

    Why do you seem utterly ignorant of the evidence. Do you not think it incumbent on you to investigate the subject before criticizing it? And when I say investigate I do not mean reading a strongly worded editorial or a blog.

    Link to this

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